A Family That Wraps Together, Stay Together

June 14, 2021 4 min read

Despite the pandemic putting a halt to most social activities, some families are still keeping the festive spirit alive. This Dragon Boat Festival(or 端午节), we journey with Grandma Hong on how to make her famous Bak Changs that are dearly loved by her family and friends.

Preparation starts as early as the day before, with the soaking of leaves, prepping of ingredients and tying of strings. Grandma Hong also has to get up as early as 6am on the day of wrapping to prepare the rice. 

Ingredients are ready and it is now time to start wrapping

For the past 10 years, her younger sister would give her a hand and they would wrap the dumplings together. Before that, Grandma Hong did everything by herself. Every year, she  wraps over 100 dumplings to distribute amongst her family and friends. She comes from a big family with 10 siblings, and therefore there is always a lot of work to be done during this season. 

Making dumplings requires a lot of work. She used to peel the chestnuts (栗子 ‘Gao Lak’) until her fingers would bleed. However, when asked why she still chooses to do so every year despite the tedious work, she said “一年一次包 Bak Chang 给我的兄弟姐妹, 给我的家人还有妈妈吃, 还OK啦!” [Making dumplings for my mother, siblings and family members is a once a year thing, so I’m okay with it!]

She adds “我的Bak Chang很好吃的我跟你讲,有钱买不到的, 你不相信你吃吃看!” [My dumplings are delicious, they cannot be bought with money! If you don’t believe it, try it out for yourself!]

3 generations of Grandma Hong’s family wrapping Bak Changs together

Every year, Grandma Hong’s family members would also help her with the wrapping. With her age catching up to her, it is getting tougher each year to make them. However, she says that her daughter is the only successful one in the family according to her standards. 

“几年前我叫我的孙来包,可是他们包得很难看,学包不懂什么 Chang,而且学到我很 Pek Cek” [A few years ago, I asked my grandchildren to help me wrap the dumplings. However, I have no idea what drumpling they were making as it was so ugly. I was so frustrated when I was teaching them!]

Grandma Hong making Bak Changs with her granddaughter

Regardless, Grandma Hong still requests for her family to go over to help her every year. She feels that it is a great opportunity to spend time with them, and that it is very entertaining for her when she watches her family struggle to wrap the dumpling. Furthermore, she hopes that after more practice they would get better at it and be able to help her more in the future.

Grandma Hong’s dumpling making journey started in the 1970s. She recalled the first time when her sister-in-law tried to teach her but she still could not seem to wrap it well. However, a few years later when she moved into a new house, her neighbour offered to teach her and she managed to succeed in her very first try. Ever since then, she has been making dumplings yearly.

Grandma Hong showing off how she wraps her Bak Changs

“Bak Chang很奇怪的, 会就是会,不会就是不会” [Wrapping dumplings is strange, it’s either you got it or you don’t.]

One thing that surprised Grandma Hong was a few days ago when she bumped into her late husband’s friend. He recalled her husband complimenting her dumplings and hence was asking her if she was making them this year as he never got to try them.

“我从来没有听过他讲,可是他跟他的朋友讲我的Bak Chang很好吃,有钱买不到的!” [I have never heard him say that before, but he told his friend that my dumplings are delicious and cannot even be bought with money!]

It is small things like these that keep her going. Making and distributing dumplings is a way to show affection to her loved ones, as well as an opportunity to spend time with the family. 

“包给他们吃我很开心,不然我吃饱那么闲空包啊!” [I am very happy to make dumplings for my family!]

Grandma Hong and her granddaughter enjoying their completed Bak Changs

Cooking together with the elderly comes with many benefits. Firstly, you get to spend quality time with them. This is a great way to get the family together, especially when passing down family recipes. Holidays are usually celebrated with family meals and this is a great opportunity to create happy memories which will comfort them. Furthermore, it also makes the elderly feel wanted and useful as they pass down their skills. 

Grandma Hong showing off the new feature she learnt - setting a timer on her Phone

Grandma Hong showing off the new feature she learnt - setting a timer on her phone

As family members of our elderly grandparents, we play an important role in supporting their mental and physical well-being. With the ongoing pandemic, this limits the number of things we can do with them. However, this Dumpling festival, why not take this opportunity to create some memories with Ah Ma and Ah Gong by making dumplings together!

Last but not least, wishing everyone a Happy Dumpling Festival!

See also:10 Elderly-Friendly Attractions in Singapore

View other activities to keep seniors active at home.

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